Real Self Driving Cars Are Nearer

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

When the 2013 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens its doors in Las Vegas, Nev, on January 8, there will be a few cars on display. And not just to show off entertainment systems. At least two carmakers will demonstrate self-driving cars: Toyota and Audi.

Toyota teased its autonomous Lexus AASRV, a.k.a. Adavanced Active Safety Research Vehicle with a 5 second clip on YouTube. It is a Lexus LS 600h, outfitted with gadgetry that looks like what Google has been driving around for a while. In a press advisory, Toyota promises the car, and insights into Toyota’s “Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) research and development.”

I had a look at parts of Toyota’s ITS two months ago at the tech center in Higashifuji, but there was no Lexus 600 with a big RADAR dome on top.

Audi told the Wall Street Journal that it will be showing a car with autonomous vehicle capabilities at the Las Vegas show.

Other carmakers are in advanced stages of autonomous vehicle research. Ford is known to be working on the technology. An autonomous Mercedes and an autonomous Volkswagen have been driving around Berlin for more than a year. The technology appears to be exiting the Google phase and could be going mainstream soon.

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jan 07, 2013

    Self driving cars would at best be a niche for the rich on limited, designated roadways, if that, and at extremely high cost. Those who think of the legal issues being limited to whom to ticket have never talked to a lawyer - the legal angles are limitless, and the lawyers (including insurance company lawyers) indefatigable in exploring those angles. As a former state highway engineer, I've seen lots of engineering tech issues take a back seat to the legal issues involved. Jack Nicholson of multiple fender-bender fame (plus acting) got into so many scrapes, including once fending off an irate other driver with a golf club (a seven-iron), that his agent figured that between car repair, insurance and lawsuits, it was cheaper to hire a driver. Now he's chauffeured everywhere. THAT'S the more likely way it'll go, if you have a net worth of $400 million. For the rest of us, it will be like flying cars, a promise unfulfilled. It doesn't matter if it's technically feasible, the legal, economic and especially political aspects of the application will be controlling. The car companies are in the game for the possible tech breakthroughs, like accident avoidance technology, that will go into future cars.

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Jan 07, 2013

    I'm not getting the pessimism here. We are already 50% of the way there with cars that you can buy today, assuming you can afford a $50-100K luxury sedan. Radar cruise control and lane "guidance" are realities NOW. Going from there to fully self-driving, at least on the highway is a fairly small step. And that is what I expect to see first - Interstate cruise control on steroids. It will probably be a fairly long time before we have fully robotic cars, but a car that can drive itself 250 miles on the Interstate in good conditions is right around the corner.

  • Jeff S I haven't seen one of these since the 90s. Good find.
  • William Piper Ditch the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance for starters….Mitzu has probably benefited less than the other two partners and it has shackled any brand creativity moving forward.
  • Tassos I knew a woman in the area, a journalist (at least she claimed to be a reporter of some kind) who owned one of these tiny pickups with a manual transmission. SHe was only 40 at the time, but she must have been hard of hearing, because she would routinely forget to shift and we would go at fairly high speeds in very low gear, which made a huge racket, which did not seem to bother her (hence my deafness hypothesis). Either that, or she was a lousy driver. Oh well, another very forgettable, silly car from the 80s (and if my first and LAST VW, a 1975 Dasher wagon, was any indication, a very unreliable one too!)
  • Tassos Now as for the Z specifically, Car and Driver had a comparison test of the new Z400, a car that looks good on paper, with plenty of HP etc, but, despite the fact that the cars that win in those tests are usually brand new models that are more up to date than their aging rivals, the Z finished DEAD LAST in the test, to my ovbious surprise.
  • Arthur Dailey Sorry but compare that spartan interior to the Marks that Corey is writing about. 'A cigarette lighter'. Every Mark had 4 cigarette lighters and ashtrays. And these came standard with 'a 3.4-liter, 182-horsepower straight-six in the engine compartment and a five-speed manual transmission'. Those do not tick off many of the luxury boxes aspired to by 'the greatest generation'.Not sure about the 7 series but one of My Old Man's associates showed up once with a brand new 5 series circa 1977 and they gave him such a bad time that he traded it for a Fleetwood within a week.